GOP demands delay vote on spending, Ukraine aid
Senate leaders are navigating demands from GOP senators that could slow down passage of a sweeping bill that would fund the government and provide $13.6 billion in Ukraine-related aid.
Members of GOP leadership say they are still hopeful that the Senate could pass the $1.5 trillion government funding deal, which also includes the Ukraine assistance, later Thursday. But first they need to cut deals with GOP senators who are warning that they could slow down the massive legislation, which was introduced early Wednesday morning.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said he was feeling “good” about the prospects of passing the legislation on Thursday night.
“All it takes is one. One person can slow it down if they want to do and delay it. … I’m still hopeful that when people who get their votes on amendments that if people don’t like the product they can vote no,” Thune said, adding that he was hoping there would be a deal on GOP amendment votes “soon.”
“I think as we get into the evening and it becomes clear … where things stand and what the outlook is for the next few days if we stay around that maybe folks will decide to let the vote happen,” Thune added.
Senators are facing an end-of-the-day Friday deadline to pass a bill to fund the government or risk a shutdown. The House passed a sweeping $1.5 trillion bill and a days-long continuing resolution on Wednesday night before leaving town.
But to get the bill across the finish line, leadership needs the signoff from all 100 senators.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) fumed after a closed-door lunch about the process, noting that senators were having to vote on a massive bill with little time to read it.
“There are a lot of people in my conference who are very upset, you can include me in number, that once again we’re being asked to vote on legislation that we haven’t had a reasonable opportunity to read. There are a lot of people upset, I’m among that number, that we can’t seem to get amendments,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy added that if leadership tried to get an agreement that set up a quick vote on the funding bill that he would likely block the deal.
“Probably yeah. I don’t think I would be the only one,” Kennedy said asked if he would object.
Shortly after Kennedy spoke with reporters, his office announced that he was offering an amendment to provide $2.5 billion in disaster aid to Louisiana.
Republicans were expected to get votes on at least two amendments, one from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to defund Biden vaccine mandates for medical workers, military personnel, federal employees and federal contractors as well as an effort by Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) to strip earmarks out of the bill. The Senate agreed to bring back earmarks in its government funding bills last year despite opposition from some GOP senators.
But the votes on Republican amendments appear likely to grow.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as part of the negotiations on how to speed up the funding deal, is getting a procedural vote Thursday tied to a resolution to block an arms sale to Egypt.
A group of conservative senators are also trying to separate the Ukraine aid from the larger funding deal.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who leads the Senate GOP campaign arm, tried to set up a vote on a stand-alone bill to provide military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and other Eastern European allies.
“The Senate has done nothing to get the aid so they desperately need approved and on its way. Why? Because Senator Chuck Schumer is holding it hostage … to include in the omnibus,” Scott said.
In addition to Scott, Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) co-sponsored the stand-alone Ukraine aid bill.
But Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) blocked the request, arguing that separating the Ukraine aid into its own bill would ultimately slow it down. The House has left town for the week and would need to pass the legislation before it could go to Biden’s desk. Any changes to the government funding deal would also require it to be passed again by the House.
“If we split this Ukrainian funding out, it is not going to get there quicker. It’s going to get there slower. The bottom line is, if you want to help the Ukrainian people out — and I believe the speakers want to help the Ukrainian people out — then pass the omnibus bill that’s in front of us,” he said.
Scott told The Hill that he is also asking for a related amendment vote to the massive funding deal. If leadership gives him a vote on the Ukraine aid, he said that he would agree to let the entire bill get speed up.
“Absolutely,” he said.
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